You Are Here: A Come From Away Story
September 11, 2001. Images of that day are forever etched into our collective consciousness. It was a day of shock and terror, the effects of which linger within our minds. And yet on that same day, on an island about 3,000 kilometers from Manhattan, in the middle of the Atlantic, the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, gave voice to all that is good and generous within humanity.
"6,500 people showed up in a town of 9,000 and stayed for five days."
- Diane Davis, Ganderite
Our story began when U.S. airspace was completely shut down in the hours immediately following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. All civilian airliners within reach of the United States were ordered to land at the nearest airport. Thirty-eight of those planes landed at the Gander airport in Newfoundland & Labrador , Canada.
With no warning and with no time to prepare, Gander, a city with a population of only 9,000, realized that 6,500 passengers would soon have to come off the grounded planes. The people of Gander and surrounding communities across the province of Newfoundland & Labrador quickly started gathering everything they could to prepare and welcome their unexpected guests.
Gander and the surrounding communities played host for five long days to 6,500 frightened, exhausted and hungry passengers from around the world, housing them in their homes, schools and churches.
This remarkable story was largely a footnote in the aftermath of 9/11 but has now been brought to life in the most unexpected way possible: a live stage musical, titled “Come From Away.” The show became one of the most talked about openings in the recent history of Broadway and generated a great deal of discussion about the need for compassion and unity in the midst of one of the most divisive periods in socio-political history.
To spread the spirit of kindness
You Are Here: A Come From Away Story goes beyond the stories dramatized in the musical to reveal how an isolated community with a particularly unique culture and character connected with the world at large by reaching out to people with extraordinary kindness at a time of great need.
The characters portrayed in the the musical - the mayors of Gander and Appleton, a local cop, two community workers, an SPCA worker, and two local TV reporters - were real people who worked tirelessly alongside countless others to comfort and care for their unexpected guests.
The passengers or 'come from aways' whose lives were changed forever, included a couple, who in a period of stress and anxiety met, fell in love, and married, the pilot of an American Airlines Boeing 777, whose life was turned upside down, and a businessman who was so touched by his hosts’ generosity that he went on to create good samaritan initiatives in cities across the USA.
Those same efforts resonated with people far from Gander, especially the families of the helpers and first responders who died while helping others on 9/11. In so doing, the film celebrates the generosity and compassion of Newfoundlanders, all that it has inspired and the legacy it has created.